In 1908 Ed Walsh, Won An Astounding 40 Games & Requested A Salary Raise To $7,500 For 1909
White Sox Owner Charles Comiskey Instead Offered To Reduce Walsh’s Salary
Walsh Then Held Out…And Lost
The Battle That Never Ends
Mordecai (Three Finger) Brown (left), Chicago Cubs pitcher just after the turn of the century; Urban (Red) Faber (center), former Chicago White Sox Spitballer, and Ed Walsh big moose of White Sox hurling fame before World War I, discuss curve versus spitball at Diamond Jubilee dinner of The Old Time Players’ Association at Chicago, IL, Feb. 3. – Associated Press Photo 2/4/1944
For six seasons Ed Walsh was one of the best pitchers in baseball. Today his name is rarely mentioned among the early pitching greats such as Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander.
Walsh’s greatness was recognized by his peers however and he was the guest of honor at the 1944 Old Time Players’ Association Dinner. As can be seen in the above press photo Walsh was glad to see old teammates and former rivals.
From 1907 -1912, Walsh won a total of 178 games. In 1908, Walsh pitched 464 innings in 66 games, winning 40 while posting a minuscule 1.42 ERA. As the White Sox battled for the pennant down to the last week of the season, Walsh pitched in an incredible seven of the last nine games of the season.
On September 29, Walsh pitched two complete games beating the Boston Red Sox in a doubleheader by scores of 5-1 and 2-0. Walsh pitched in the next game as well on October 2, but was out-dueled by Cleveland ace Addie Joss in a 1-0 nail-biter. Walsh struck out 15 batters in the losing effort. The White Sox finished a game and a half behind the first place Detroit Tigers.
How About A Raise?
After the season concluded, Walsh asked White Sox owner Charles Comiskey for a salary raise to $7,500 for 1909. A small raise which reflected his superb year was in order, Walsh believed. Walsh then waited for his new contract to arrive.
And he waited. When the contract came to Walsh on March 2, not only was there no raise, but Comiskey had reduced Walsh’s salary for less than he had made in 1908!
Walsh was flabbergasted and angry. Refusing to be underpaid, Walsh looked over the contract Comiskey tendered and found a loophole to get what he felt was a fair salary. Walsh noticed that the contract arrived after the March 1 deadline when contracts were due. Walsh figured that since the team did not offer him a contract on time he should be free to pursue a contract with any team. He did not sign the contract offered by Comiskey and Walsh hired a lawyer to convince the National Commission (the predecessors of the Commissioners office) that he should be declared a free agent.
Comiskey was indignant insisting that the White Sox had sent Walsh his contract on time as the rules required and this was “all foolishness.”
Walsh was getting “a lot of bad advice,”and could hire all the lawyers he chooses,” Comiskey fumed.
But this is where Comsikey really had balls, concluding with this abominable statement; “You know we treated Walsh pretty well last year, and it’s all up to him now.”
Sure, cutting the major league’s winningest pitcher’s salary was treating him pretty well!
Walsh of course was not granted free agency and sat out the first couple of weeks of the season. Walsh capitulated and signed a contract with the White Sox on May 1 for an undisclosed sum, but reportedly less than he was initially offered. The additional salary cut was because Walsh had missed the beginning of the season!
It was behavior like this that earned Comiskey scorn and resentment from many of his players. Actions like this by Comiskey might give you some insight into how ten years in the future the 1919 White Sox could be induced to throw the World Series.
Walsh blew out his arm in 1913 and finished pitching in 1917 with a career record of 195-126.
Ed Walsh was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946.
Seven years after Charles Comiskey.